updated 6/2/2005 9:55:04 AM ET 2005-06-02T13:55:04

Wednesday marks the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season, and the latest forecast predicts it will be a busy one.

A team at Colorado State University says the ocean continues to heat up and that means more hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

The team, led by Professor William Gray, revised its earlier forecast upwards, and now predicts 15 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes. It expects four of those to be intense, with sustained winds of at least 111 miles an hour.

The U.S. government last month issued its own forecast, predicting 12 to 15 tropical storms between June 1 and Nov. 30, with seven to nine of those becoming hurricanes. Three to five of those are likely to be intense, the government predicted.

'Adjusted our forecast upward'
The university team's earlier forecast predicted 13 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which were expected to be intense.

"We have adjusted our forecast upward from our early April forecast and now expect tropical cyclone activity to be about 170 percent of the average seasonal activity," said Gray, an atmospheric science professor.

The long-term average is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year. Tropical storms get names once they reach 39 mph. A storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.

Continued warming of the Atlantic Ocean and the decreased likelihood of an El Nino, a Pacific weather event that affects the formation of Atlantic storms, prompted the team to revise its prediction upward, forecaster Philip Klotzbach said.

77 percent chance of U.S. hit
The team also said there is a 77 percent chance of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the United States this year. The long-term average is 52 percent.

Video: Hurricane season starts The forecast said the probability of an intense hurricane hitting the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, is 59 percent, compared with the long-term average of 31 percent. For the Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, Texas, the chance is 44 percent, compared with the long-term average of 30 percent.

In the last 10 years, the Atlantic Basin has experience 137 named storms, 77 hurricanes and 38 major hurricanes. During that period, only six of the 38 major Atlantic basin hurricanes crossed the U.S. coastline In 2004, three major hurricanes made landfall.

Gray and his team will issue more updates on Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Oct. 3.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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